New York City mayor says he wants to adopt Israeli drone tech for policing

But after meeting with Israel Police leadership, Eric Adams says he won’t utilize other surveillance measures that ‘do not conform to our rights’

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (C) tours the National Police Academy with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (L), August 23, 2023. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (C) tours the National Police Academy with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (L), August 23, 2023. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams met with Israeli police and security officials on Wednesday to discuss public safety technology, at the tail end of his trip to the country.

Adams, a former police captain, said that he instructed New York Police Department officials to look into adopting aspects of Israeli drone technology and crowd control tactics, but shied away from endorsing other Israeli security methods during an online briefing with reporters on Wednesday evening.

“So many police forces across the globe, they use various methods that are not suitable in our city, and we’re not going to use any methods that do not conform with our rights and the laws of our country,” Adams said when asked about Israeli security tactics that have been criticized by rights groups, including using facial recognition technology to identify Palestinians.

Adams also applauded how the Israel Police “strategically and successfully deal with a large crowd.”

“Some methods we may not use, but there are other methods that they use that they’re really humane in nature,” Adams said. “And, as when we had a similar incident in our city, how do we do it in the correct way? And they’ve learned how to do it correctly. And we walked away with some of those tactics.”

The Israel Police has come under fire in recent weeks for increasingly aggressive tactics against the eight-month-old protest movement against government plans to weaken the judiciary. Tel Aviv’s former police chief, who oversaw the largest protests, drawing upward of 100,000 participants weekly, claimed he was pushed out for “political” reasons, after ignoring the national security minister’s request to use a heavier hand against demonstrators.

Under new management, Tel Aviv’s police force was more aggressive in its use of mounted officers and water cannons as protests reached a crescendo before the parliamentary recess that began at the end of July. Several protesters were injured.

Accompanied by Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on his tour of the National Police Academy, Adams said that another area  New York City would explore further was Israeli drone technology.

Demonstrators are sprayed with water cannons by riot police during a protest against the government’s judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on July 24, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

“I’ve been leaning into how we could appropriately use drones and they had great technology on using drones for early detection,” Adams said.

In particular, he said, New York City would be looking into how Israel is “utilizing motorcycles and drones together, something we haven’t been utilizing in the city,” in order to direct responding officers away from traffic delays.

The NYPD’s first deputy commissioner, Tania Kinsella, who accompanied the mayor to Israel, will lead the follow-up, Adams said.

“We look forward to having a great relationship with them as we explore their technology,” he added, calling it “tech that specifically takes aim at balancing public safety and justice.”

While not elaborating on the police methods that New York City will not adopt, the mayor summed up his visit by saying that “all of us are united” in improving public safety while protecting individual rights.

He later met with representatives from the Shin Bet internal security agency, but declined to elaborate on the specifics of the meeting.

Adams met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, discussing Israel’s judicial shakeup, technology, and crisis response. He also met with representatives leading the protests against the government.

“I listened, I didn’t weigh in, I think the people of Israel will determine their destiny. It was important to me to meet with people from both sides and hear,” Adams said, “but I did not give my opinion one way or another.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (L) meets with President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2023. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

On Wednesday, Adams made a visit to President Isaac Herzog and met with ultra-Orthodox Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage Meir Porush. Adams, who leads the city boasting the largest Jewish municipal population in the world — larger than those of Israeli cities — is considered close to New York’s Jewish communities, including ultra-Orthodox communities.

A planned visit with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid was canceled over what Adams called scheduling conflicts, while Lapid’s office declined to comment on why the meeting did not happen.

Adams also met with longtime Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai on Wednesday evening, before his scheduled return flight to New York early Thursday morning.

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